It was a mixed verdict following the Warren County Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) unanimous vote approving the allocation of $5,714,541 of what’s been called “supplementary appropriations” in the public schools budget. of the county for the financial year 2022/23. A vote on appropriations to what was cited as a $71.1 million Warren County Public Schools budget for fiscal year 22/23 has been added to Tuesday’s regular meeting agenda. evening of August 16 behind closed doors after a working session of the supervisors at 5 p.m. The closed session was intended to discuss the legal and financial issues surrounding WC EDA, not the school’s budget.
What appeared to be more than 20 people, including teachers and citizens interested in supporting the county’s public schools, were in attendance. Some had signed up to speak in support of the requested budget for public schools during “public comments” on items not on the agenda. A number of others were on hand to speak out in support of the recommendations of current and past Shenandoah Farms Advisory Boards to at least temporarily abandon Phases 4 and 5 of the Old Oak Lane Capital Improvement Plan. that the council and its health district director seem determined. see through despite skyrocketing cost estimates that it appears Farms Health District residents will be responsible for covering.
But on the school budget front, as first public comment speaker and high school teacher Amy Flora told the board, she had to reconsider her planned remarks following the point-to-point action. agenda added by council. Flora and others thanked supervisors for allocating the $5.7 million to support teacher salaries, scheduled bonuses, filling eight vacancies, and funding for extracurricular activities and education programs. Athletics. However, as some absorbed what had been approved versus what had been on the table as potential additions or reductions to the original public school budget proposal, some dissatisfaction emerged.
And after a follow-up discussion with Supervisor and County-Schools Liaison Committee member Delores Oates and County Chief Financial Officer Matt Robertson on Wednesday, it appears the discontent revolves around a $1.2 million discrepancy in that $5.7 million and $6.9 million the board had set aside in a county reserve fund to meet additional needs in the public school budget. Robertson noted that he could not explain the difference between that $1.2 million in unrestricted funds and a cost estimate of $1.8 million listed for 37 items presented by school officials during the meeting. a work session of the supervisors on August 9 on the school budget.
But to the tune of $1.2 million or $1.8 million, the fact that those 37 items did not receive any of the available reserve funds set aside for these additional demands did not sit well with school employees. public present at Tuesday’s meeting. In fact, when Flora, who is president of secondary education for the Warren County Education Association, returned to the public comment podium, she told supervisors that a survey of teachers in the system indicated that 77% of respondents indicated that they were considering leaving Warren County. Public schools in other public school systems are, they say, better funded on an annual basis.
There seemed to be a disconnect between the council and its chairman and teachers were unhappy that the English and elementary art teaching positions, as well as elementary school counsellors, math coaches and a variety teaching assistants and other requested positions were ignored by the board despite funds being available to meet a significant portion of these requests.
After repeatedly imploring that these additional requested positions were much needed to alleviate staffing shortages and the continued overload of existing staff workloads, board chair Cheryl Cullers, herself a former public school nurse, said reiterated that his board had never intended not to take ownership of existing staff. salary demands, including 5% STEP or COLA raises. She added that she believed she was elected to ask tough questions about budgets and assured the public school staff present that they were not the only ones targeted by such questions, which county departments received the same treatment.
But this, this treatment could eventually lead up to 77% of current teachers to employment in public school systems elsewhere should be of public concern to anyone, elected or not, concerned about the future of the Warren County public school system. .
After the adjournment for public comment, most of the education community left the meeting room to discuss what had happened in the Warren County Government Center meeting room. Those present turned to the Warren County Education Association’s secondary education president, Flora, to comment on the budget that was and was not approved.
“It’s not enough. The salaries are great, but it feels like it’s just to stop us talking, to stop fighting. But we can’t because all the rest of this budget is reasonable, it is necessary and it costs the county nothing more than what the county paid last year, even in this time of inflation and rising gas prices. don’t have to spend any extra money should be a no-brainer that they should fund us 100%. All of these positions are absolutely necessary, it’s completely transparent. And we’re not going to stop fighting for them because we need them, these teachers need them. And again, this survey that we released indicates that 77% of teachers right now are planning to leave Warren County Public Schools next year because of this whole process.
“So for them to say they do and care about Warren County public schools and teachers – THIS is not the result of a county caring. When 77% of our teachers are so concerned about this process that they are considering leaving, it doesn’t show that they care,” Flora concluded without challenge from the teachers around her.
However, county officials say last year’s block funding request isn’t entirely accurate. During our Wednesday email conversation with County CFO Robertson and Supervisor Oates, at the end of a list of numbers involved, Robertson wrote, “After last night’s meeting, the assignment total local dollars to the school division is $28,776,158. This represents a total increase of $1,056,158 over the previous year.
And for a fiscally conservative county council, whose chairman has bragged this budget cycle that the council’s current majority elected three years ago on a reform platform tied to the fallout from the FR-WC financial scandal EDA, has not yet approved any tax increases to produce additional revenue, even during the inflationary economy mentioned above, which reported a $1.05 million increase in local funds to public schools could have triggered the alarm bell. Would adding another $1.2 million of available reserve funds threaten to break this streak of tax-free increases in the next budget cycle?
Well, “you gotta do what you gotta do” as the old saying goes, or maybe not – but at what risk?
I guess we will find out next year when the Warren County Public School Budget FY-2023/24 is presented with a new number of teacher vacancies to be filled.
Click here to see the entire meeting in the county video, including the often emotional post-school budget vote, in which 15 people addressed this, among other issues. The “other” was primarily the apparent reluctance of the Board of Directors and staff to follow the recommendations of the Shenandoah Farms Health District Advisory Board(s) regarding decisions on the highway capital improvement project and the consequences of the potential closure of Farms community property assets as financial refund seeking plans. former advisers, the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF), looms on the horizon. County Attorney Jason Ham explained the result of his research into a previous Circuit Court ruling that POSF was not, under Virginia law, a legal homeowners association due to a lack corroborating evidence that all owners of Shenandoah Farms must be POSF members.